DD-WRT is a popular aftermarket firmware for consumer routers. For more than a decade, it’s been the go-to for people who want to turn a sub-$100 router into a so-called “super router.” Here’s a look at the most noteworthy DD-WRT advantages.
I’m big on stability and reliability. No one likes it when the Internet connection drops for no apparent reason while you’re in the middle of something. I’ve found DD-WRT’s reliability to be second to none, as long as the hardware it’s running on is OK. I can’t blame failing hardware on DD-WRT, of course.
I recommend rebooting your router once a week as a precautionary measure, but I’ve found DD-WRT can run for months or years without crashing. To me, that’s one of the most significant DD-WRT advantages. I reboot as a security measure, not a reliability one.
Chances are DD-WRT has more options than the factory firmware your router shipped with. The difference between an access point and a router is 100% software, yet an access point often costs double what a router costs. If you need VPN functionality on your router, DD-WRT supports it, even on cheap routers. Most sub-$50 routers don’t offer that functionality off the shelf. DD-WRT makes its design decisions based on what a router can handle given its available CPU power, storage, and RAM, rather than target market segment.
You can tune a DD-WRT router to meet your specific needs far more than you can most off-the-shelf products. That’s another big advantage among the many DD-WRT advantages.
Many router manufacturers never update their software. DD-WRT updates happen several times a month. So when word gets out about a serious vulnerability in routers or Linux in general,you can protect yourself by loading a newer DD-WRT. If your router manufacturer decides not to issue an update, you’re just out of luck.
DD-WRT updates aren’t as easy as I would like, and they aren’t automatic and aren’t all that well documented, but they exist. That’s a big advantage over, say, D-Link firmware.
Since DD-WRT updates its components from time to time, you get better security than you get with most stock firmware. DD-WRT also gives you options to fine-tune, which allows you to disable unsafe functionality like WPS. It also has the ability to schedule reboots, which is the only effective protection against router malware. Router malware lives in memory, so the only way to flush it out is to reboot periodically.
If I’ve convinced you to take the plunge with DD-WRT, I compiled a list of recommended DD-WRT settings to help you secure your router.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.
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